This is part of a new series I’m starting on my blog for Startup Post Mortem’s. If you don’t learn from the past you’re doomed to repeat it. Lots of great lessons in here from Ryan Bennett, the founder of Liv. I met Ryan in late 2010 and he was full of passion and gunning for the success of his product. He tried to build a great team, and get something to market.
I absolutely applaud his effort. The guy just got his real world MBA. Far better than any school he could have attended at about the same price. Having just attend FailCon yesterday it’s so clear that even the guys at the very top fail. What sets them apart is they get back up and go for another round. Ryan’s that type of guy. Can’t wait to see what he does next.
Written by Ryan Bennett:
One of the hardest decisions of my life was to shut down my company, Liv, after 2 years and 5 months. It all began with a vision for a product that could solve a problem for millions of people. I took on this challenge full-force, moved to California in the heart of Silicon Valley, and invested all my time, energy and funds into making this product a success. Unfortunately, after many different pivots and partnerships, the idea failed to take off and I found myself with a greater knowledge from the experience.
Although Liv has been my life for the last two years both emotionally and mentally, I knew it was time to move on. Here is my Post Mortem.
1) Find a Paying Customer – We should have found a paying customer first to fund the business instead of trying to build out the consumer app and rely on our users for revenue from the beginning. We should have found a company willing to pay us to build a white label product for them and in return, use the experience to learn about the product and use their funding to build out the consumer application of our vision and passion.
2) Lean Approach to Product Development – We should have used the lean approach to product development to build, measure, and learn from every user right from the beginning. After doing our research and talking to many people, we thought we knew exactly what the user wanted. After building two different products, which wasted money and time, we finally learned about the Lean Startup Movement. We should have built a minimum viable product at first and the n used that product to learn what the users really wanted by their actions and not their words. After we started using the build, measure, learn methodology, we were much more productive. From that, we saw our users grow and more importantly, we saw our flaws.
3) Build For the Want Not the Need – We should have built a product for the want and not the need. I know this sounds counter-intuitive but we noticed a huge need for a product that allows people to collect and organize all their favorite products in one spot. However, after many months, we realized that although a need did exist, no one wanted to use it more than three times a year, which were Christmas, Birthdays, and furnishings for apartments or homes. We should have built a product for the want not the need. Even if there are 10 products doing exactly what we were doing, if a big enough want still existed then we would have users willing to sign up and use Liv.
4) Better “Go-To-Market” Strategy – We should have build a better “go-to-market” strategy. We relied heavily on the “viral” characteristics of the product and not enough on other influences. Research would have allowed us to target exactly how our market receives their information and clearly identify those early adopters. We could have built a product they loved. We should have identified the first 150 ideal users of Liv and talked to them directly about a product they would love.
Ultimately, we decided to move our attention elsewhere because I lost the passion for the problem I was trying solve. Although building a business is an emotional roller coaster, I knew in my heart it was time to move on.
Building a company from nothing is not without its challenges. From these challenges and experiences, I made many mistakes but I also did a few things correct. Click here to read about the 5 lessons I learned from Liv. I know everyone has different experiences and this is just one prospective, but I hope it helps at least one entrepreneur.
Ryan can and should be reached at ryanabennett.com. Help him find his next project.
I came home a couple of weeks ago to my 2-year old son saying, “Dad, never give up! Never give up! Never give up!” This seemed like awesome but strange advice from a two-year old. A week or so later we found out that Dora the Explorer (aka: legal crack for children) has an episode reinforcing this message.
It reminds me of an awesome Ben Horowitz post a few months. Here’s my favorite part:
“As CEO, there will be many times when you feel like quitting. I have seen CEOs try to cope with the stress by drinking heavily, checking out, and even quitting. In each case, the CEO has a marvelous rationalization why it was OK for him to punk out or quit, but none them will ever be great CEOs. Great CEOs face the pain. They deal with the sleepless nights, the cold sweat, and what my friend the great Alfred Chuang (legendary founder and CEO of BEA Systems) calls “the torture.” Whenever I meet a successful CEO, I ask them how they did it. Mediocre CEOs point to their brilliant strategic moves or their intuitive business sense or a variety of other self-congratulatory explanations. The great CEOs tend to be remarkably consistent in their answers. They all say: “I didn’t quit.”
*I met with a friend yesterday who recently shutdown his business that he worked on for about a year. He eventually realized that it wouldn’t get traction and decided to cut his loses. Much more important is what he’s doing now. He didn’t give up. He’s immediately trying to get the next thing going. Head high – he’s onto the next thing.
*I have another friend whose product has taken longer than expected to get live (sounds familiar). Instead of throwing in the towel he got a part-time job at HP to supplement his startup dreams and keep it going. I respect this guy a lot more than the founder who get’s 22k hits on the first night of being live.
I just found this image on Ming Yeow Ng’s blog today. It’s reflective of reality for 99% of entrepreneurs.
We’ve had our own fair shares of highs and low. Let me share one. Last year we launched an iOS game called Steve Young Football. We had some good moments, and some not so good moments. Afterwards I sulked for 2-weeks and then got back to work. A year later we’re being featured again (positively – or not) for our latest project.
But positive or negative, it doesn’t matter. I’m not doing what we’re doing for high fives or pats on the back. I’m doing it because I think it’s the right thing to do. That sounds stupid and cheesy but it’s true. Sorry.
The only way for you to prove that you’re not actually crazy is to be successful. That’s the motivation for a guy to get a part-time job to keep his preverbial startup ball in the air. You (and I) just have to find ways to keep it going long enough to eventually find that product market fit we’re all looking for.
Rarely will it be the first thing you come up with or start working on. So in the profound words of Dora the Explorer:
“NEVER GIVE UP.” I won’t if you won’t.